Help Needed!

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So I am fairly new to saltwater aquarium. Some information about my setup before questions sorry it’s alittle lengthy. I received a 36 gallon bowfront with rock unknown pounds but four pieces and several snails/crabs last summer from a friend that only had from online purchase for 6 weeks. After setting up with his material and his water, I bought and added Reef Octopus 100-HOB protein skimmer (was not one), canister filter (replace hob filters no room in stand for sump), 2x Hydor Koralia Nano 565 powerheads? After running successful for 2 weeks added two clownfish. They received ich several days afterwards after dip and drip acclimation process. Week later both had died (come to find out friends fish died of ich before he gave the system to me and he was not uneducated plus had no idea it would continue to live in water for 4 weeks). So I decided to overhaul tank and removed crushed shells (ugly presentation) for Caribbean-Sea Arag-Alive Hawaiian Black substrate. During the turnover/cycle it killed my few snails/crabs. Being discouraged I took several months and let the tank run with monthly 5g water change. After reading a lot I bought the 30+ cleaner pack invertebrates this week on (3 days and they are still alive). Water was great until I really started messing with the system mainly house cleaning (using turkey blaster, scrubbed walls, clean filters) to now I have low ammonia .25 and nitrates 80ppm, nitrites 2ppm yesterday but 0 today. What I have done is treated with Seachem Prime, ammonia lock, cleaned canister filter 2x, and 2x20% water change to 40% water change today.

Ok onto the questions; why did my numbers come up, did I cycle to long and didn’t fantom feed often enough? Cleaning in depth of tank? Live rock is not live? What can I do to help reduce these numbers faster or let them run the course, and how often can I dose Seachem Prime? Suggestions on media for 3 tray canister filter or lose all together (is it a nitrite factory?)? Could it be my rock is not live and I need to buy a live piece and place in with them? Should I use a starter bacteria product?

Now for future if numbers get under control how long before I introduce 1-2 fish? Is Kent’s Purple Tech ok to use to accomplish purple tint rock and how often? RO/DI suggestions, stage 4, save money go with just RO and negatives to that decision? Finally do I have too much flow in the tank with 2x565g power heads and 450g hr canister filter?

I know this is a lot of information but I have no LFS that I can pick a brain and I am second guessing my knowledge I’ve learnt from 2 books I’ve read (saltwater aquarium for dummies & The New Marine Aquarium). Thanks for your time and any suggestions are greatly appreciated.
Should I eliminate the filter all together and let the live rock work? I could use hob filter, if I do should I use any media other than the standard cartridge and ammonia strip? Due to space under the tank a sump is not a option at this time.


Staff member
Deep cleaning the system is not a good idea. Especially the sand bed. I do blow the rocks off now and again to prevent build up.
I agree HOB is better than canister but in reality you don’t need one.
Cleaner packs tend to be a bit excessive especially if you don’t have any fish. May be just too much life all at once.
Once you add prime your ammonia tests will be false positives unless you have a sea chem ammonia badge.
I’d suggest a small quarantine set up for future fish. Since you’ve already had the bad experience of Ich you know how much of an issue it is. Ich has been shown to stay alive up to 72 days with out fish so if you get it again you’ll need to treat all fish and leave tank fallow for 72 days to be sure. With a QT set up you can isolate and treat, if necessary, any fish before they enter your display tank. A QT is simple bare bones tank. Since your tank is small and fish will be small a 5 to 10 gallon bare bottom tank with a sponge filter and small heater works great. Add a few PVC connectors for hiding places and you are good to go. Just QT the fish for 30 days prior to adding. Watch them closely for signs of disease. If something pops up treat it and when full treatment is done add the fish. The nice thing about a sponge filter is it is cheap, and you can toss the sponge when you are done. I don’t keep my QT up all the time. I just put a new sponge in the display tank for a week or so before I need it so I get plenty of bacteria on it and set the QT tank up a couple days before I buy the fish.